“From energy to education to health—you can well imagine that the skills are very varied.”

Sean is our vice president of human resources. He makes sure we have “the right talent in the right place, at the right time.”

Sean, Vice President of Human Resources

I'm from Ireland. I'm from the west of Ireland as you're looking at the map. From a place called County Mayo. That’s where I grew up, and I worked a majority of my time actually when I was working in Ireland in Dublin, which is the capital.

My role here in the World Bank Group is … title is Vice President of Human Resources for the World Bank Group. So essentially we do everything from making sure we have the right talent at the right place at the right time to ensuring that we are active in the market for the best talent, we have the right people and the right skills, and where there’s gaps we can actually begin to assist the business in both making sure that we reward their skills to come in and indeed retain their skills inside.

We are looking at vastly different skills. You know when you’re looking at all our global practices—from energy to education to health—you can well imagine that the skills are very varied. And importantly, then, what we do at IFC and MIGA are vastly different skills that are required in the investment side in the private sector—the whole insurance in the political sector in MIGA. So it’s a full array of skills that you require, competencies.

I think, more importantly, we hire for attitude. And, you know, the idea of coming in to the World Bank Group … it’s public sector. We have a very clear mission which is to eliminate poverty and increase shared prosperity. And if you don’t have the “fire in the belly”—as our president says—for that, well then clearly this is not the place for you.

I joined the World Bank because, first of all, it’s a global organization. And when you look at the organization’s mission—to eliminate poverty and increase shared prosperity—who would not want to work here? So, you know, working in over 100 different countries, working with very, very talented people in itself has a stickiness that I think, you know, just belies the fact that we have a huge range of people who apply to work here. And to be part of that journey of change that the president is leading in the organization and it is, for me, one of the best places to work in the world. 

I think you can see the difference every day when you go to visit some of our clients and indeed the feedback you get from our governors from here at our Spring Meetings (which have just finished) and our Annual Meetings. The impact that we have—to generate safe drinking water for families, for increasing health systems, for education for young children—are huge. And I just think that you can look at any newspaper, any country, any world challenge and that's the impact the World Bank does—is actually getting into these difficult challenges and coming with the best possible solutions you have.

We have over 2,000 people here who have PhDs. It's like, you know, looking at the Olympics. It's not just the gold medal winners, but you have the bronze, the people who compete—and they are all here. So you really have the best talent. And what we are seeking to do is make sure that talent has the opportunity to provide the solutions for our vision and missions.

And this, for me, is hugely important. I think what we want to do, like any employer, we want to be a tough place to get into. You know, we believe that we will only attract and retain the best people because they are here for the right reasons, which is the mission and the vision. We are a public sector institution so you're not going to be rich by joining the World Bank. And if you really want to have a rewarding career and have something that you can actually say that you made some good, well, then this is the best place to work.

I also think that, you know, "listen more and talk less" is always good advice. I certainly have got that coming into different operations. And, of course, when people are very intellectually stimulated, there is always the tendency to articulate what they have done in their careers. I think what we need to do is—how their careers and how their skills attract themselves to the Bank for what we do.

So it's actually linking their ability to feed in to what we are trying to do in every particular practice that we have: be it in H.R., for example. I always look to see what skills do you have that would be attractive to us in the H.R. function. Not because I have skills and compensation I come into H.R.  

So from my point of view it has to be because you have the right attitude and the right behaviors, you have the skills that we require, and you want to come into an organization because of its vision and mission. So I think that it's a ray of different skills we have, we take the fundamentals. And at the very outset it's should be hard to get in here so come prepared.

Well, I think from an organization that's global, diversity really gives us a competitive advantage. Having people like me coming from one nation with one particular set of skills, in itself, is not going to give us the solutions [for] global challenges that are presented at the World Bank.

  • So having a more diverse, more inclusive workforce across our organization can only help us in coming up with solutions that are global. That’s number one.
  • Number two is, you know, education diversity, for example. A lot of bright people got to a lot of recognized bright schools. But, of course, having diversity of education, coming from schools that are not necessarily in the top 100 in the world—as calibrated by certain academic institutions themselves—means that we have to be able to unearth that talent to be able to recruit it into the organization.

So we have a lot of work to do in our recruitment process in relation to building diverse talent but also diverse talent from different backgrounds of education and, indeed, location. And we've done exceptionally well over the last number of years but we still have work to do. Hence, that's part and parcel of what we're trying to do here at Human Resources.

When you come in the door of the World Bank Group we have a logo which is "We dream of a world free of poverty." So if you want to work in an organization that cares about eliminating extreme poverty and increasing shared prosperity, and you want to work in an organization that's interested in development—well, then, the World Bank Group is the best place to work in the world, bar none. I've worked in public sector, I've worked in private sector. And if you have that ambition, and you have that talent, then we want to hear from you.